3 Habits Every Beginner Rider Should Adopt

Learning how to ride never really stops and you could always level up and learn and fine-tune your skills. Here are some of the many life-saving habits I recommend all new riders adopt. It might seem like a lot to remember every time you go out for a ride, but don’t you worry, before you know it all of it would become second nature to you and happen automatically.

Habit #1: Loose on top, Tight on bottom

I have often noticed new riders can be especially stiff with their arms, hands, and torso, but not so much with their bottom half. The best position for your body when riding a motorcycle is to make sure your bottom is tight, and you’re loose on top.

How do you do that, you ask? Grip that tank with your thighs, and make sure that you are pressing into the bike with your ankle/heels too. On some bikes, especially sports, you might even notice there is a plate where your heel will naturally rest. It’s not just for aesthetics. Having a firm grip on the bike with your lower half will help you feel more in control of the weight of the bike. This will also keep you very stable and attached to the bike should you happen to spot a speed bump or a pothole too late and jump over it at 60kmph+.

The top half of your body should behave exactly the opposite. Physics 101: when in motion, the wheels of the motorcycle act like a gyroscope and create gyroscopic forces. In simpler words: the motorcycle wants to stay up, it’s not you who make it stay up. You’re there to guide the rate and direction of the motion. So if you have a deathgrip on the handlebars or your arms and shoulders are too stiff, you will be interfering with the motorcycle’s ability to self-stabilize, even compromising your control on the bike, especially during turns. A simple test is to do wiggle your elbows about like a chicken while riding. If you’re nice and loose, you should be able to do it without hesitation.

Now, repeat after me: loose top, tight bottom.

Habit #2: Slow, Look, Lean, Roll

Sure, one could be trail braking and slipping the rear tyre as they enter a sharp bend like Rossi, but if you are reading this then chances are you’d rather not risk it. This approach is generally considered safer of the options especially for beginners.

Slow down as you approach a corner. Sometimes rolling off the throttle is enough, other times when the turn is sharper you might have to brake if you’re riding at high speeds. 

Look through the turn as far as you can see. Like literally, move your head to face the direction in which you wish to go. If you can see the exit, good. If you can’t see through the turn, be prepared for any eventualities. Cattles and vehicles parked randomly are a common occurrence on Indian roads. This is why slowing down before a turn is safer. It is also recommended to be away from the direction of the turn. Say the road turns right, then you should be on the left (as much as you safely can). This does two things for you: give you a better view of the road/turn, and delay the apex of your turn. With a delayed apex, you’re less likely to go too wide or off the road when taking the corner. 

Lean your motorcycle. With the first two steps taken care of, now you lean the bike as you go into the turn. It also helps to engage the throttle a tiny bit as you go into the lean, it helps keep the motorcycle more stable. This is also where counter-steering comes into play. Push on the right handlebar grip to go right. Simple as that. If your bike feels reluctant to lean, try steering with one hand and relaxing the opposite arm, a technique included in Lee Parks’ Total Control course; that is, in a right turn, steer with the right hand and relax your left arm. This is just to get you a feel of how countersteering operates. With practice, your muscle memory would develop and these movements will become better synchronised. 

Roll on the throttle once you feel the motorcycle has leaned to your desired lean angle. This happens in tandem with relaxing your countersteering input. So say you’re turning right, and you push on the right grip. The bike leans to the right as a result, and now you want to hold that line, so you just straighten the handlebar and give it a little bit of throttle to hold the desired line through the curve. The physics behind it all helps that little bit of throttle get more traction and equally distribute weight as you go through the turn.

Remember this next time you’re in the twisties: slow, look, lean, and roll.

Habit #3: Keep the visor closed

It would absolutely ruin your day to have your face shield up when a bug decides to make a kamikaze run for your retinas at 100KM/H. So keep it down when on the move.

You should wear eye protection when riding a motorcycle. Bugs, dirt, rocks, etc… all can fly right into your eyeballs while riding. It can not only cause permanent damage to your vision but potentially cause you to crash. The only time I usually have my visor lifted is at a stop, and if I need to get some extra airflow while riding I will open it maybe an inch or so, but that’s all.

I have had Jurrasic-era-sized bugs hit my face shield multiple times while riding, so much so that I had to wipe it off with my glove to see where I was going. I wouldn’t want to find out what happens when they strike my face/eyes.

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